Excruciating as it was to watch, Carl’s death is starting to make sense on The Walking Dead, especially after the combined 8 year jump into the future.
The Walking Dead broke away from comic book canon in season 8 when it killed off Carl Grimes. It made no sense at the time, both from a narrative standpoint or from the actor’s perspective, as Chandler Riggs had no plans to leave the show. But now that the show has moved forward almost eight years, does Carl’s death make more sense?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of Chandler Riggs’ departure from the show. At the time it was announced it made no sense, and when Carl’s death came along it made very little sense in the story. It felt off. It felt artificial. It felt wrong. If nothing else, it made me think there was something bigger happening because surely no one would just wake up one day and decide to get rid of Carl, or Chandler.
Then season 9 came along and the puzzle pieces started falling into place. Carl was indeed supposed to be the future of the show, but with Andrew Lincoln’s impending departure (which was also out of canon considering that Rick Grimes is alive and well in the comics) Carl’s future also had a big question mark stamped upon it.
If Carl was still alive, it’s very likely that instead of being a leader in Alexandria he’d be out in the woods with Daryl looking for his father’s body. He wouldn’t rest until he found one. Where would that leave his story? Not only that, but the 8 year time jump would put Carl in his 20s, much older than comic book Carl. (Which is why many fans believe that teenage Henry will now assume some of Carl’s comic book arcs in the show)
With his death in season 8, which spurred Rick’s final fight against Negan, the first five episodes of season 9 were dedicated to Carl’s vision for the future. Those visions served as Rick’s blueprint for the future of the communities, and in following through on his quest to bring Carl’s vision to live he was simultaneously honoring Carl’s memory.
Unfortunately, Rick’s loss led to a complete breakdown between the communities. Would anything be different now if Carl was still alive? It’s hard to say.
There’s still a very good chance that Chandler Riggs might make a comeback in the expanded universe. There are stories left to tell with Riggs and Andrew Lincoln, ones that didn’t fit into the show’s story arc. Seeing Carl and Rick again would be welcome, to be sure, and it might make much more sense to have those stories take place in the not too distant past where Rick and Carl can be together once again.